Jen and Amy Hood are sisters and the founders of Hoodzpah Design.
Hoodzpah is a collaborative branding and type studio based out of Southern California. Their purpose is to help clients connect in a meaningful and memorable way. They’ve worked with Disney, Target and even the Los Angeles Lakers. Let’s dive more into Amy and Jen’s professional lives in this #DesignwithDot interview!
Meet Jen and amy hood: brand strategists and founders of hoodzpah design
Jen and Amy Hood are sisters and the founders of Hoodzpah. Hoodzpah is a collaborative branding and type studio based out of Southern California. They create to delight the disenchanted, defy the ordinary, and decipher the woods from the trees. They have a very unique style and have worked with Disney, ESPN, Target, the Lakers and so many more. It’s such a pleasure to have you on the #DESIGNWITHDOT blog Jen and Amy!
1. How did you come up with the name Hoodzpah Design and what is the meaning?
We grew up in upstate NY for about 5 years, from around ages 5-10 and yiddish was common vernacular. So we grew up hearing this word “chutzpah” which means bold…brazen. Flash forward to being 24 years old, starting our company. We had previously been working at a knock off coupon clipper magazine, doing ads for small businesses, and we wanted to make a big change in the kind of work we were doing. We wanted to do fun, eye-catching, bold work, that was outside of the norm. We remembered that word, realized our name kind of fit perfectly into it (designers and puns, right?), and Hoodzpah was born.
2. Did you always know you wanted to run a business with your sister? Please explain how that started.
We were always entrepreneurial even when we were young. We were raised by an entrepreneurial Mom and Grandmother and so it was just kind of in our nature to start things, to do things. We used to make our own school newspaper with comics and articles in elementary school. We had our own secret detective agency in our attic in upstate NY when we were about 7 or 8 (a la the Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen movies), and we’d spy on the neighbors. We’d make custom shirts for friends in highschool and sell them. We had a small greeting card company when we moved to California around end of highschool/early college which we sold at local art fairs. It was always just a thing we did.
So we always knew we wanted to have our own design business ever since we entered the industry. We just didn’t anticipate we’d do it so soon, but necessity was the mother of invention, and we ended up starting it because we just couldn’t get hired or even get interviews. At the time you had to have a college degree to even be considered for a design position and we had learned through apprenticeship at that magazine job under a very patient art director named Jason Staggs.
3. What’s your dream? (Where do you want to see your life and the world in 10 years? Year 2031!?
Around 2014 we unintentionally got into teaching graphic design and business for creatives. It’s brought us so much joy helping other creatives get to where they want to go. People kept asking us how we started our business and it lead to a talk on the subject, which lead to teaching on the subject at Laguna College of Art + Design, which lead to our book “Freelance, and Business, and Stuff: a Guide for Creatives”. It’s probably what we’re best known for now even though we’re brand designers, not authors or business strategists by trade. It’s cool how that’s become a huge source of income for us and how it’s created this huge community of creatives around us looking for more independence to do what they love and make good money at it.
We now have a course based on the class we used to teach, and getting to hang in the Slack channel with the FABAS students is the BEST. So the dream is to focus more and more on making resources that are financially accessible so that more people can break into the creative world with a financial literacy and business savvy to make a great living for themselves.
Don’t be pressured to take the path everyone else is taking. We always thought we’d do the 4 year college route, major in fine arts, that whole deal. That plan didn’t pan out because we just didn’t have the money for a 4 year school.
4. You’ve worked with so many amazing people and projects. What has been your favorite experience in your career so far?
We have been blessed with the most amazing clients! It’s impossible to choose a favorite. It’s like choosing your favorite beach. They’re all great for different reasons. But so far, favorite experience in our career project wise might be our typefaces we’ve been designing and the small font foundry we’ve been slowly building up. You get to create this thing that you have complete creative control over, which is thrilling and terrifying all at once. Then you release it into the world and hope someone else also digs it. Then you get to see how other designers put it to use in ways you never would have considered. It’s the coolest thing!
We have a hashtag for our fonts, #hoodfonts , and it is my greatest joy to look in on that hashtag and see all the cool things people have made. And that type work has lead to amazing projects like doing custom lettering for movie titles with companies like Disney and 20th Century! Straight up dream projects. I don’t think those would have come along if we hadn’t leaned so heavily into typography, making our own fonts, and specializing in creating custom wordmarks for our brand identity clients.
5. What advice would you give to your younger self 10 years ago?
Don’t be pressured to take the path everyone else is taking. We always thought we’d do the 4 year college route, major in fine arts, that whole deal. That plan didn’t pan out because we just didn’t have the money for a 4 year school. But there are many ways to get where you’re going, even if they’re not the most common paths. It might take you a little longer, which in our case it definitely did. And it might be a bit harder, but you can make your own path if you take advantage of the opportunities you do have and the paths that are available to you. It can be easy to have a chip on your shoulder for not doing things the seemingly “right” way, but whatever way you can learn something new or break into a new industry or job, take that opportunity! Count the small wins and measure the growth, even when it’s small. Forward progress, however small, adds up over time.
Relationships are two way streets, even on social, and we all want to feel heard and appreciated. So if someone shares your work, or comments on your post, write back!
6. What are your thoughts on social media? Hate it? Can’t live with out it? Give us your best social media tip or insight!
It’s not quantity, it’s quality, as cliche as that sounds! Interact with the audience you do have, however small, and listen and engage with them. That small community that you foster will give you ideas, feedback, and in there will be your potential customer base for products! So appreciate them and reciprocate. Relationships are two way streets, even on social, and we all want to feel heard and appreciated. So if someone shares your work, or comments on your post, write back! It seems so obvious but we see so many brands/people neglecting that simple thing. Think about the thing/person you most admire. Think about leaving them a comment on their twitter or instagram post, and now imagine the joy/loyalty you’d feel if they even just liked your comment, let alone if they commented back! Even if it is just them commenting back 3 fire emojis, you know they saw your comment! You’ll be a fan for life. Remember that with your own audience.
7. What is your philosophy about life? Or a mantra, quote or proverb you want to share with us?
Remember gratitude. Always give thanks. Whether it’s just in a journal, or to people who send you work, or whatever. That and never forget to play. You got into your industry because you loved it, so remember to have fun with it. If you’re not having fun, create a project where you can play.
8. What’s your dream travel destination or the next place you want to visit? #TravelWithDot
Anywhere completely different! We got to go to Sweden for a talk and it was incredible. But we haven’t seen enough of the world yet. Anywhere in Asia or South America sounds amazing and completely different to what we’ve ever experienced.
9. What’s your favorite food experience you would take me to in Los Angeles, and what would we eat? #EatWithDot
We are women of simple tastes: We love a good patty melt at a diner. We love tacos and cheap beer. So if you were in town, we’d find the closest Dodger dog street cart or taco truck. The street food in LA is the best! Pretty much any taco truck in LA will put to shame any Mexican chain restaurant anywhere else in the US.
10. Who has been a mentor or someone you have looked up to for advice and inspiration? How do they help or how have they helped you?
Our biggest mentor is a family friend who is not even in the design world, but was just a business strategist for decades. Sometimes it feels like you can learn the most from people who aren’t in your industry, because they help you see a new perspective. Good business is good business, no matter what industry you’re in.
People in the design world who’s conversations have guided and steered us would be: Mackey Saturday, an amazing brand designer who is just so business smart. Every time I talk to him I rethink something I thought was so black and white. Same with our friend Ash Huang. She works in tech and is also an artist and author and she is just so thoughtful and intentional and I always learn so much when I talk to her. Kate Rosenow is a friend of ours who is just a productivity genius. We’re in a mastermind group together and I always get so much out of our conversations. And people like Steve Thompson, Joel Beukelman, Marc Hemeon, and Paul Hutchison who we can call or text and bounce business and design ideas off of and laugh about the industry. There’s so many people and peers we’ve learned so much from!
11. Dragon or Unicorn? Why?
Dragon cuz they’re fierce!
The Fast 5
1) Your favorite Instagram feed right now:
Oh No Type Co! James Edmonson has been doing instructional posts all about type design tips and tricks and sharing all his industry knowledge. It’s so cool.
2. What is the Best Life advice (or lesson learned in business) you ever received:
Not every job is the fun job. But if those jobs pay for the fun jobs, then it’s worth it.
3) Best website/destination you go to for inspiration:
4) The App you can’t live without?
Tik Tok! I can’t get enough @babybeaverfurrylove
5) Book we should all read?
We have to say our own, right?! “Freelance, and Business, and Stuff: A Guide for Creatives”